Andrew Dys

Is stopping residential growth in York County smart or stupid?

It took about two seconds for Republican state Rep. Ralph Norman to comment on the proposed freeze of residential growth in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie. He rightfully called it “baffling.”

“I can’t do commercial (development) without housing,” said Norman, who has developed commercial and residential property in York County all his adult life. “If you are going to get commercial, you must have people.”

Claiming roads and infrastructure such as schools can’t handle continued home and apartment building, the council that supposedly is filled with “limited government” and “free market” conservatives now want to have the government halt the market.

Why is there a market? Those places in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie are coveted places to live, that’s why.

The schools have good reputations and the areas are close to Charlotte and the highways to get to that huge job market. York County taxes are less than other suburban counties around Charlotte. You get more house for your money. Both Lake Wylie and Fort Mill have had huge population booms in the past 15 years – with a short dip during the recession of 2008-2011. Why?

People want to live there.

And as residential booms came, so came Walmart and three Harris Teeters and two Publixes and Food Lions and Quik Trips and restaurants and convenience stores and schools and more. I know – I live in one of those neighborhoods in Fort Mill, Regent Park. I have seen the traffic turn into long lines and you know what? So what.

Just because I got mine – a house in a convenient and good place to live – doesn’t mean somebody else should not get theirs. Traffic is an inconvenience. It is not a reason to deny new homes.

But the county now is proposing, based mainly on roads that can’t handle the traffic, a halt so politicians and bureaucrats can look at growth. Norman said as a state legislator he sees places “that would die for quality growth.”

What will a halt on growth do to those businesses that might consider locating here and bringing not just the commerce but the jobs they create? Maybe those business would not want to look at a place that is not growing.

And the construction industry brings huge numbers of jobs. Builders, plumbers, roofers, electricians, masons, landscaping, framers – real jobs paying good wages. Schools hire teachers and more. Stores and businesses hire employees. What happens to all those jobs if growth is halted?

All the Walmarts and Lowe’s and the small businesses around them in both areas came after the boom in housing to handle all the customers that new housing brought.

Norman said he supports higher building standards that maintain quality of life, but a halt on residential growth is, in his words, “baffling.”

More, the road issue, and Norman concedes that roads are congested, is a separate issue. People by the hundreds and thousands are looking to move into Fort Mill and Lake Wylie even with existing road congestion.

Without question, many people, homeowners, want growth stopped or planned better or both. Those people, my neighbors and people all over northern York County, are good people. They care about where they live. But is stopping growth the right thing to do?

Bill Cater of Fort Mill who lives on Pleasant Road adjacent to a new huge development of hundreds of homes said road congestion is already a huge problem, houses are allowed to be built on lots that are too small, and the idea to temporarily halt growth is “like closing the barn door after the horse ran out” because developments with thousands of houses are already underway.

Cater, who has lived in Fort Mill all his life, blamed county officials over many years who had a chance to stem growth but did not, and will watch with interest to see if the county really does take a stand. Cater is not some new guy – he has had these traffic concerns for years and people like him deserve to be listened to.

But even if he is right, is traffic reason enough to stop everything else?

If growth was stopped years ago in unincorporated areas there would be no Baxter Village development and its thousands of people and scores of businesses. No one in 2016 can imagine Fort Mill Township without Baxter.

But Baxter also brought tremendous stress on traffic and road congestion. Try making a left heading west on S.C. 160 into Baxter Village during rush hour. You might be there until the next day.

Guys like Bill Cater, they know that traffic is brutal. But is it reason to stop everything?

And this decision to potentially halt growth comes in an election year. All seven York County Council seats are up for election in November, and candidates have to file for office by the end of March. Council members have been hearing outraged residents complain about roads and growth for years. The council wants to have a possible law change ready for a look on April 4 – after candidate filing but before any primary in June or election in November.

Yes there is traffic problem in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill. The reason is simple. Both are a great place to live, filled with tens of thousands of good people who came here for the good life.

And now so many people who enjoy that good life hope York County would deny that chance at the good life to others.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065

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